Police Search Home for Drug Paraphernalia After Motor Vehicle Stop

State v. Brown blog post 1 of 4

Appellate Docket No.: A-4938-18T1

Decided June 11, 2020

Submitted by New Jersey Drug Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reversed a judgment of conviction after a motion to suppress was denied.  Consent was unlawfully obtained after getting consent from a motorist to search his home.

In State v. Brown, the defendant was stopped by police for failing to stop at a stop sign.  The defendant was asked the exit the vehicle after officers smelled raw marijuana emanating from the vehicle.  Upon exiting, the defendant admitted to possessing two bundles of heroin.  The officers placed the defendant under arrest, handcuffed him, and read him his Miranda warning.  Defendant consented to the search of his vehicle where officers recovered a bag of marijuana from the center console.

After defendant consented to the search of his vehicle, the officers requested and received consent to search his residence. Defendant was still in handcuffs when the officers drove him to his home and escorted him into the residence.  Officers searched his room and found drug paraphernalia. Officers searched a second room and defendant admitted that it was also his.  Finally in a third room, defendant consented to officers searching a safe which contained over 1,000 bags of heroin divided into twenty-one bricks.  The heroin in the safe had the same logo as the one in the defendant’s pocket.

The grand jury charged defendant with multiple crimes. The charges included first-degree operation of a facility for manufacturing heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4 (count one); second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(2) (count two); third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute while within 1,000 feet of school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 (count three); second-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute while within 500 feet of a public park, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 (count four); third-degree possession of heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1) (counts five and six); and fourth degree possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:36-3 (count seven).

Defendant moved to suppress, as the officers did not have a warrant to search his home.  The motion to suppress was denied and defendant appealed.  The Appellate Division, among other issues, analyzed whether a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity is needed for the officers to ask for consent to search a suspect’s residence.  Ultimately, the Appellate Division passed on deciding the issue on the merits, and overturned on other grounds discussed in another blog, but a review of the case law included in the opinion is important.

The United States Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution both guarantee the right of persons to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure in their home. Warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable unless, among other exceptions, voluntary consent is given. In State v. Carty, 170 N.J. 632, 635 (2002) the Supreme Court held that “in order for a consent to search a motor vehicle and its occupants to be [constitutionally] valid, law enforcement personnel must have a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing prior to seeking consent to search a lawfully stopped motor vehicle.” This “reasonable and articulable suspicion standard” is derived from Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, and serves the “prophylactic purpose of preventing the police from turning routine traffic stops into a fishing expedition for criminal activity unrelated to the lawful stop.” Ibid.

State v. Carty is very important in its application in an attempt to prevent officers from extending unnecessary searches.  Although it is unclear at this point as to whether the reasonable and articulable suspicion requirement extends to the home, it is important to note that at least for a motor vehicle stop, officers must have some sense of criminal activity before even asking to search the vehicle.

If police have searched your home or your vehicle without a warrant, contact an experience criminal defense attorney today. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court and municipal court for criminal matters and restraining orders like the present case. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to ensure prosecutors, police, and even judges follow the law.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any town in New Jersey including Bass River, Beverly, Bordentown City, Bordentown Township, Burlington City, Burlington Township, Chesterfield, Cinnaminson, Delanco, Delran, Eastampton, Edgewater Park, Evesham, Fieldsboro, Florence, Hainesport, Lumberton, Mansfield, Maple Shade, Medford Lakes, Medford Township, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, New Hanover, North Hanover, Palmyra, Pemberton Borough, Pemberton Township, Riverside, Riverton, Shamong, Southampton, Springfield, Tabernacle, Washington Township, Westampton, Willingboro, Woodland Township, and Wrightstown.


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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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